Rafa a Champion again

Jun 7, 2011

So once again it was the Clash of the Titans, The Rivalry To End All Rivalries: the finals of the French Open with Rafael Nadal facing up to Roger Federer. Now the excitement wasn’t because this was a new and intriguing clash. In fact, it was one of the oldest rivalries in the book. The match up has been perfectly established as a great in the modern history of sport, and looks set to continue. Maybe that was why it drew the crowds. Not only that it has had so much coverage and talk over the last few years, but that it was continuing to do so. After a few iffy seasons from Federer and injury from Nadal, it looked doubtful for a while whether a Grand Slam would once again culminate in the Great Rivalry.

This time, many were thankful to see, it did. All other pretenders to the throne were cast aside and it was just Roger and Rafa. Of course, they are quite different to how they used to be when the rivalry was at its peak. Roger was number one in the world most of the time back then; now he is number 3 after Djokovic has muscled his way through the rankings. Rafa used to be the undisputed King of Clay, but he has been beaten on his favoured surface. Shock horror.

So the two men were very different; time had passed, it felt, as they walked onto the court. It was packed, unsurprisingly, and they were in a for a treat. Instead of a five set contest, they got a 4 set one, but that doesn’t mean that it was any less thrilling to watch. The Spaniard started off well, with Federer coming aggressively in for a fight back that never quite caught. Rafa failed to capitalise on his two set lead, and the third was lost to Federer as the Swiss found his footing.

Nadal even needed on court treatment at one point; but thankfully it was only for blisters, and despite that and a nervy start he managed to snatch victory in the first set right from under the notice of Federer. It was the backhand that lost Federer the post, with the shot being woeful compared to the well known backhand of Nadal.

In the end, it was easy to see how this win was inevitable. Nadal has a 44-1 record at Roland Garros; Federer has 16 Grand Slams and nobody can argue that he is a champion amongst champions. But still, clay is Rafa’s home turf, its where he feels most comfortable, and it takes a lot to break a man in his comfort zone. Particularly when he is that good.

Nadal dropped to his knees on the terracotta-coloured court to celebrate his 10th Grand Slam victory. Not quite 16, but not too shabby for a man who had only celebrated his 25th birthday just a few days before. He has now totalled Bjorn Borg’s number of Roland Garros victories, but the magic looked like it had yet to die for him as he beamed into the cameras with the trophy in his arms. And yes, his teeth sunk into the handle within minutes. Nice to have things back to normal, isn’t it?

-          SophieG

Written by: SophieG

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